Roatan Fishing Tournament Is Gaining In Popularity
Following the official registration on September 13, sixty-five boats began the three day competition. “[We had] multimillion dollar boats to local pangas with a single outboard,” said Aaron Etches, the West End boat captain of “Happy Hour”, who participated in the tournament for the 10th time. “[One of the pangas] broke down on the first day and had to be towed in”continued Etches.
Local anglers know well that there are two good marlin fishing grounds around the Bay Islands. One is about one third of the way between Utila and Roatan, the other is about three miles off the north shore of Roatan between Lawson Rock and Punta Gorda. “Ninety percent of billfish are caught there,” said Victor Jones, a local boat captain. “You hardly catch any marlin on the south side anymore.” Some bigger sports boats try their luck and rush to less frequented fishing banks 30 miles north of Utila and around Barbaretta. The places where the shelf comes out from the deep to about 600 -1000 feet are the best for catching marlin. “The deeper you get it’s more the game of chance,” said Jones. “If it’s too calm is not as good. It should have a little bit of wind blowing, current circling.”
“Mario Canahuati, Gary McLaughlin, and Chris Rosales are some of the best fishermen,” said Etches speaking about his competitors. “A lot of it comes to local knowledge of where the marlin have been biting and congregating.”
The tournament organizers awarded 500 points for Blue marlin, 300 points for White marlin and 200 points for sailfish or spearfish. Fifty bonus points were given for documented clean release of the fish. The rodeo division added points for wahoo, dolphin fish, tuna and kingfish with a weight minimum of 20 lbs.
Commenting on the first day of fishing Etches shared, “Conditions were just horrible…15-20 mile-an-hour winds, 5 foot chop. Only five fish were caught.” While weather improved over the next two days luck for “Happy Hour” didn’t change.
While most of the Roatan boats do some serious, competitive fishing, they still find a way to keep things fun. “It’s a way to get together with my buddies,” said Victor Jones, a second generation shrimp boat captain from French Harbour, who helped out on the “Ok Then” crew based in French Cay. The Hatteras class boat caught a Blue marlin on the second day of fishing and Jones filmed the catch and proper release of the hook assuring the team the full 550 points.
Shawn Engel from Utila ended up winning the competition with three caught and cleanly released Blue marlins and 1650 points. Their first marlin was caught in rough weather on Friday at 8am, giving them the early catch tie break advantage.
When the Roatan tournament first began 19 years ago there were 10-12 boats registered and now 50-60 boats register on regular basis. “It they increased the prize money to $100,000 they would get 100 boats, 150 boats easy,” said Jones. “You’d get bigger boats with more experienced crews, more notoriety for the island, more notoriety for the fishing tournament.” Jones feels that these numbers are possible within the next couple years.
While other sports fishing tournaments in Utila, Guanaja do take place from time to time, the Omoa tournament in May and the Roatan tournament in September have brought consistency and recognition to Honduras as a prime location for deep see fishing. “It’s a year-round thing. There is a group of guys who get together every couple weeks and they start a plan and coordinate. Kyle McNab, Chris Rosales, Devon McNab, Gary McLaughlin have been the heart and soul of the even and you have really seen it take off,” said Jones.
Roatan held its XIX International Fishing Tournament with a great turnout and great fishing all around. After a windy and rough first day spirits picked up and weather improved. ‘Ok Then’ crew caught a blue Marlin for 550 points: Victor Jones, Kurbito Warren, Jerrito Hynds, Byron Dixon, Vincent Bush.